WHERE IS IT? North-east of the city centre, at the top end of High Street next to the Necropolis
Here you can find several attractions in one place, including Glasgow Cathedral, Provand's Lordship House and Gardens, St. Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art, and the Edlington Gate, which leads to the Necropolis.
Offering the best look at Glasgow's historic past, Cathedral Precinct was the result of a competition launched in 1985 to redeveloped the area, won by architecture firm Page Park in association with Scottish sculptor Jack Sloan, whose works are dotted around the city. It is home to Provand’s Lordship House, the oldest building in Glasgow, with the St. Nicolas Gardens adjoining it; the relatively new St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life & Art, and the titular Glasgow Cathedral. There is also the Edington Gate that leads to the Bridge of Sighs and the Necropolis, as well as an array of statues, including three businessmen of the 19th Century; James Lumsden, James White and James Arthur.
Facing Castle Street is a statue of the Scottish medical missionary David Livingstone, whose meeting with Welsh journalist H.M Stanley gave rise to the infamous quote “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” when he finally found Livingstone after an exhaustive search in Africa. The statue was originally placed in George Square, but moved to its current location in 1959. Behind it lies the Bishop’s Castle marker; stone from the original medieval castle marking the location of the keep.
St. Mungo Museum is one of the few museums in the world completely devoted to religion, it is a relatively new addition to the city, opening in 1993. It was built in an ersatz-medieval style to match the surrounding buildings, including the Provands Lordship House (the oldest house in Glasgow) and Glasgow Cathedral, which are all located in the Cathedral Precinct, along with the entrance to the Necropolis. Although named after the 6th Century Christian apostle who is mainly honoured in Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, the museum aims to promote and cultivate understanding between different faiths. It includes works from almost every religion on the planet, including Islamic calligraphy and Britain’s first-ever Zen Garden.
Glasgow Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Glasgow and St. Mungo’s Cathedral, was constructed during the latter half of the 12th Century, with work continuing on it through to the 15th Century. The site was chosen as it was thought to be the resting place of St. Mungo himself. The impressive house of worship is the only one in mainland Scotland to survive with its roof intact after the Scottish Reformation in 1560, which saw the country reject the Pope’s authority and the celebration of Mass forbidden. Its survival is by and large to do with the town’s taking sole responsibility for repairs to the kirk after King James VI made available the tax from a number of lands in the surrounding area.
Upon exiting the Cathedral, one can gain access to the Necropolis by passing through the gold and black Edington Gates. They were designed by Glasgow architect David Hamilton in 1838 and produced in the city’s Phoenix Cast Iron Foundry (later known as the Edington Foundry). They were originally located on the Bridge of Sighs, designed by David’s son James, and feature the insignia of Merchants House, a Clipper Ship, accompanied by their motto, “Toties Redeuntis Eodem,” which translates to “so often returning to the same place.” Beyond this, but before the Bridge of Sighs, are a number of memorials to those lost before their time.
Provand’s Lordship was built in 1471 by the then Bishop of Glasgow, Andrew Muirhead. It is believed that the original intention was to provide living quarters for the Preceptor of the nearby hospital, but historical evidence suggests it was later occupied by a canon of the Cathedral Chapter assigned to the Provan (district) of Barlanark. While it is rumoured that the post was handed to the illegitimate sons of Kings, it is known that the building was used as a sweet shop and factory in the early 20th Century, before the Provand’s Lordship Society raised the funds to buy it and turn it into a museum. They furnished it to look like a 17th Century house with donations from Sir William Burrell (who also donated his prized possessions to the city in what would later become The Burrell Collection). The building itself has been renovated several times in order to stop it deteriorating into ruin. At the rear of the building lies the small, calming St. Nicolas Gardens, opened in 1995. As well as being home to a number of medicinal plants and herbs, the Garden also features the famous Tontine Faces. Sculpted by David Caiton, these baroque keystones originally decorated the arches of Glasgow Town Hall when it opened in 1790. When the hall was demolished, the heads were saved but scattered around the city but were reunited after the long history was uncovered by journalist James Cowan.
South of the Precinct is the small Peace Gardens, with one of Glasgow’s four famous blue police boxes (as seen on Doctor Who) at its corner. Nearby are another two statues. The first is of Norman MacLeod, who was a Dean of the Chapel Royal, and a friend to Queen Victoria, preaching to her and her husband Prince Albert when they visited Scotland for the second time in 1844. MacLeod shares both his occupation and first name with his father and son, often leading to confusion. The second, grander statue is of William II of Scotland, although, running with the theme of confusion, he is William III of England. He is also known as William of Orange, as he was a Prince of the House of Orange-Nassau. Colloquially he is known as King Billy. The statue was funded by Glasgow businessman James Macrae, and features William as a Roman Emperor astride a horse. It was originally positioned at Glasgow Cross but moved to the Precinct in 1923. At the centre of the gardens, there is also a mural, entitled Let Peace Flourish.